MANILA, Philippines - The government said Thursday it planned to catch corrupt officials in cyberspace by using sites such as Facebook and Twitter as forums for the public to report crimes.
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said that his department would soon set up a website with the customs and tax bureaus through which people could anonymously tip off authorities about crimes such as smuggling and tax evasion.
"It will be a website (with) integrated Facebook, Twitter and whatever social networking site there is. It will be reachable by SMS (short messaging service) also," Purisima told reporters.
"This will allow people to maintain their anonymity in complaining or sending information to us."
Purisima said he was inspired by a case in China where someone took a picture of a corrupt bureaucrat wearing an expensive Rolex watch and posted the picture on the Internet, leading to the prosecution of the official.
He said that with so many Filipinos carrying camera-equipped mobile phones, it would be harder for smugglers, tax evaders and other criminals to hide evidence of their misdeeds.
A common complaint among businessmen is that criminals with links to corrupt officials too easily get away with smuggling and tax evasion because people are too scared to report them.
Purisima said this effort was limited to his department and related agencies but added that he expected other departments to set up similar websites which could eventually be linked together.
President Benigno Aquino, who won presidential elections in May by a landslide, has vowed to eradicate the corruption that has plagued the Philippines for generations.
Aquino took office on June 30, replacing Gloria Arroyo whom he said allowed corruption to thrive during her nine years in power.
On Wednesday, Aquino endorsed using the Internet in his anti-graft campaign, saying that many cyber-savvy citizens would be eager to help in ferreting out cases of ill-gotten wealth.
"You have these eyewitnesses and people who can give us leads on all of these activities. They have the ability to use Facebook... (which) will undoubtedly help in this communication process," Aquino said Wednesday.
But Aquino stressed he would not personally go on Facebook or Twitter.
"There will be staff members who will help me," he said without elaborating.